By Emergency Order of 20 March, the Government of Ontario postponed the execution of several provincial limitation periods and procedural time periods retroactive to 16 March due to the emergency of COVID-19. The Emergency Order was removed on 14 September 2020.
Although the Government has already lifted the suspension on a variety of issues (Construction Act matters, Planning Act matters and Help Arrears Enforcement — see below for more details), Ontario’s restriction periods will begin on September 14, 2020. Limitation periods will start to run again on 14 September and at the same time follow the deadlines as they were on 16 March 2020.
Suspensions of limitation time previously lifted
Although the suspension will be lifted for most Ontario limitation periods on 14 September, the Government has previously lifted the suspension of other forms of limitation periods, including:
– Construction Act matters: the restriction periods were suspended from 16 March 2020 to 16 April 2020. These restriction periods started to run again on 16 April, with the same deadline as on 16 March 2020.
-For certain matters of the Planning Act: the Government has postponed all procedural time periods from 16 March to 22 June 2020. Regulation 278/20 ended the suspension of time on 22 June and sets out new time limits.
– Drivers’ licence suspensions under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Compliance Act: On 5 June 2020 , the Government amended O. It’s Reg. 73/20 The revocation of a driver’s licence under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Compliance Act can be reinstated in order to enforce the payment of child or spousal support.
The procedural deadlines were not all postponed, but some resumed on 14 September 2020.
The provincial suspension of procedural time limits under the Emergency Order was subject to the control of the courts , tribunals and other decision-makers responsible for the proceedings. Courts and tribunals periodically inform the profession and the public on deadlines and major improvements in procedures (such as modern e-filing protocols). Legal representatives should not presume that the proceedings of the court or tribunal have been stopped and should review the notifications of the court or tribunal for guidance. Procedural time limits that were suspended resumed on 14 September 2020.
Certain contracts are subject to time limits for beginning an action (such as in certain insurance policies). These statutory deadlines have not been suspended by law.
Tips to meet restriction dates and other time limits
Check your files to understand the new limitation periods: understand how removing the suspension changes the limitation periods in your case. Please notice that not all restriction periods are 2 years. See the PracticePRO Limitations and Notice Periods resource to help you reach key deadlines.
Update timelines and review how the suspension will have an effect on and ensure that new deadlines are followed.
For matters with imminent restriction or procedural time limits: consider making a claim or taking other required measures as soon as possible. Note that courts continue to operate with changed or restricted procedures, so waiting until the last minute can leave you unable to meet the deadline. E-filing services are more commonly accessible, so you might be able to file lawsuits or other records online without going to court.
Alert your client on the status of their case and the effects of the pandemic: address the possible effect of the COVID-19 restrictions and whether it could have an effects on their legal needs or legal strategy. In the case of future and pending claimants, notify them of the effect of the termination and recommencement of limitation periods and the continued need to comply with court and procedural time limits.
Review and quickly update timelines where conditions change: ensure that all main timelines and restriction periods are addressed. When fixed deadlines or timetables are no longer feasible due to a COVID-19 emergency, work quickly to obtain an extension. Work fairly with your client and counsel to ensure that timelines and plans are updated when appropriate.
Check procedural timelines and continue to consult court and court websites for more COVID-19 alerts and updates: during the COVID-19 emergency phase, several courts and tribunals have made significant improvements to their procedures. Any of these amendments, such as e-filing and the use of CaseLines by the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice, are permanent amendments. Continue to track court and court notifications and other reports in order to be informed of any changes.
Remember, small problems become massive, and pre-emptive action is often the best and only remedy. Don’t take action on your own to try to remedy a claim. Let us know right away, and we’ll help you figure out how to move forward.